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Archive for the ‘1993’ Category

laodedweapon1There was a time in my 46 year life that the name National Lampoon meant hilarious comedy. I was first introduced to the name as a small lad while watching National Lampoon’s Animal House.   Boy that was a great movie for an 8 year old.   So many breasts so little, little time, but, I digress.  The National Lampoon name gave us such classics as the above mentioned Animal House, Vacation, and Christmas Vacation.  Now that seems like a 100 years ago because over the last 20+ years the name is associated with garbage.  I saw the beginning of the demise of the name in a large movie theater in 1993 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  I remember it because in a movie theater that could seat 250 people there was myself, and two other people, in the entire theater.  The name of that movie was National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1.

The movie is a parody of the first two Lethal Weapon movies as well as a host of other successful films of the late 80’s early 90’s.  Detectives Colt, played by Emilio Estevez (Bobby,) and Luger, played by Samuel L. Jackson (Iron Man 2,) are looking for the killer of Luger’s former partner York, played briefly by Whoopi Goldberg (Sister Act,) and how its connected with the distribution of Cocaine by selling Wilderness Girl Cookies.

Thanks to wonderful comedic spoof movies such as Airplane and, more importantly, The Naked Gun franchise, in the 80’s, spoof movies became a part of the comedic movie landscape.  Unfortunately almost all of them suck.  But that didn’t keep people from making them.  The problem is that the spoof movies all suffered from the same thing in that they largely ignored the story and instead used a constant barrage of one time gags that weren’t even related to the film’s story but had more to do with pop culture of the time.  The reason why Airplane, The Naked Gun, Hot Shots, and two of the Scary Movies, are funny is that the story is the driving force of the comedy and the gags that are written into it are overblown examples of the movies they are spoofing.

The problem for Loaded Weapon 1 is that most of the films gags are all based on other movies of the era and even though they are blown out of proportion that don’t add to the humor of the film.  The gags that were spoofing the movies Silence of the Lambs and Basic Instinct didn’t really work.  Although I will say that the interrogation scene that was from Basic Instinct was somewhat humorous because of the “gratuitous beaver shot” in which they movie showed a stuff beaver was somewhat cleaver.  Nowhere near as cleaver as the “Nice Beaver” gag in The Naked Gun, but it did cause me to giggle when I saw the film, which is few and far between.  The writing is the weak link in the film.  Too many of the pop culture references, while they may look good on paper, just don’t work.  Besides the above mentioned movie references there is a scene where the Colt and Luger are in a hotel looking for their informant and they move up the stairs where they see gunfire.  When they get to the second floor they see a motorcycle policeman with his cycle, shooting at someone.  This isn’t any ordinary motorcycle cop but Officer Frank “Ponch” Poncherello from the 70’s and 80’s TV show C.H.i.P.S. (unfortunately being remade into a movie coming out this year for some reason.)  While I would assume many of us would get the joke by this time it is 10 years after the TV show was canceled and nowhere near funny enough.

The actors were a mix bag of both funny and unfunny.  While I am a fan of both Emilio Estevez and Samuel L. Jackson, neither of them really seemed to have any comedic timing in the film but then again it could be because they didn’t have anything funny to say.  It was almost as if they were both the straight men and the rest of the cast got to have all the fun.  Since a certain amount of over acting needs to take place, the main villain of the film, General Mortars, played by William Shatner (Star Trek,)is perfectly cast because no man overacts like Shatner and has a great time doing it.  General Mortars henchman Mr. Jigsaw, played by Tim Curry (Clue,) is also enjoyable in the film.  I will admit that the one actress I wanted to see in this film is a horrible actress but a gorgeous super model…of the 1980’s.  Her name is Kathy Ireland and she is very hot…for the 1980’s.  She is horrible in the film but wonderful to look at.

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If you want to watch the film, you watch for the Shatner over acting, the fun work of Tim Curry and the plethora of cameo’s from many comedians of the day (and one gorgeous actress named Denise Richards who is in a very short scene with Dennis Leary.)  This movie is a portent of all of the bad spoof movies to come in the late 1990’s and 2000’s and also the beginning of the end of the name of National Lampoon being synonymous with comedy.  It did make a brief showing in Van Wilder, but thankfully now has been put to bed.  Lastly I will say that I forgot how bad this movie was and was thinking about buying it online because as I am getting older I am having a serious nostalgia bug as well as today a real bug because the idiot M.I.T. at work got me sick.  Fortunately I only rented it because something told me this was not worth buying.  I was right in that it is not worth buying but it is also not worth renting, ever.

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gettysburg***This movie review is part of our month of May celebration of the military of the United States and the soldiers in it.***

There are war movies, and then there are war movies, and then there are war movies like Gettysburg. I love this movie a lot.  But I am sure that is because I have a love of history, military history, and military combat in the 18th and 19th century (That would be the 1700’s and 1800’s,) specifically the periods of the American Revolutionary War, the Napoleonic Wars, and the American Civil War.  It is because I am a fan of this period of history that I am a fan of this movie.  I believe that while this movie is an excellent portrayal of how the Battle of Gettysburg happened, with the necessary Hollywood dramatism, this movie is not for everyone.  Indeed I would say it is for a small percentage of people, who are like me, and like this period of history and this specific kind of history.

The Battle of Gettysburg was fought between the Union and Confederate Armies outside of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania from July 1st to July 3rd 1863.  The movie Gettysburg attempts to recreate the story and the battle that took place emphasizing key moments in each day that had an effect on the overall outcome of the battle.  The movie focuses on the Union Armies Calvary soldier defense of the town of Gettysburg on the first day by General Buford, played by Sam Elliot (The Contender,) the attack by the Confederate forces led by General Longstreet, played by Tom Berenger, (Major League,) on the Union Army at the Little Round Top defended by Colonial Chamberlin, played by Jeff Daniels (Speed) on the second day, and on the third and final day, the attack ordered by General Robert E Lee, played by Martin Sheen (Wall Street,) by General Pickett, played by Stephan Lang (Avatar,) which historically became known as Pickett’s Charge, and the center of the Union Army defended by General Hancock, played by Brian Mallon, (Gangs of New York.)

First of all this movie is a throwback to the epic war movies of the 1960’s and 1970’s that were made about World War II.  In those movies, and this one, many well-known Hollywood actors would be cast in an ensemble with each character telling a different part of the story with maybe one or two actors considered focal points of the story.  Comparisons to this film would be the old films, The Longest Day, A Bridge Too Far, Tora, Tora, Tora, and Midway.  For this film the focal point or points are General Lee played by Sheen and General Longstreet, played by Berenger.  This film was produced by Ted Turner and based on the book The Killer Angels.  Since I have not read the book I don’t know if the telling of the story from the Confederate side is due to the book or Ted Turner, my guess is Ted Turner, but even though it is told with a larger base in the Confederate side of the battle, the movie does give great attention to the Union Army with the Calvary defense of the town and the fight at Little Round Top.  But essentially this film does give us the view of the losers of the battle.

Other than the accuracy of the battle the movie tried to portray, the movie touched on the conundrum that officers and soldiers of both sides had in that, especially with the Generals of the opposing armies, these men were doing battle against others that four years earlier they were not only comrades in arms but friends.    The story takes particular note to mention the friendship between Union General Hancock and Confederate General Lewis Armistad, played by Richard Jordan (The Hunt for Red October.)  There are two different scenes between General Armistad and General Longstreet that talk about the years and days before the Civil War and the friendships they had with the men on the other side.  The movie does have General Hancock talk to General Chamberlin briefly about the same friendship but nowhere near the time that is spent on the Confederate side.  The movie also talks about other issues facing the Confederacy in terms of why the war was started and what the Confederacy should have done differently and who how the men who fought for the Confederacy loved the country as much as the Union soldiers did.  The movie breaks up the fighting with quite a lot of back story and character development of these historical figures.

The military battles portrayed in the film are where it’s at for me.  It starts with the fact that when I was a teenager and during the age where the only video game consuls were the Atari and Activision, sorry Nintendo hadn’t come out yet, I played a game called Napoleonics that required you to have a large basement floor and some artist skill because in order to build your army you had to put your army together by painting tiny lead figures in the appropriate clothing of the soldiers and then put them on stands.  You would then use percentile dice and lengthy directions in order to reenact actually battles.  If you have seen the James Bond film Living Daylights, one of the bad guys in the last scene was playing in a room that had diorama’s that are very similar to what I am talking about.  Anyway my point of this is that the instructions tried to make the game as close to battle as possible.  I remember reading that in order for an infantry unit to have max effect at inflicting casualties on the other soldiers the max range the soldiers had to be from each other was 60 feet or 20 yards.  So imagine being a soldier on one side and you have to march within 20 yards of a defensive position before your shooting a rifle have a real affect.  Hundreds and hundreds of men are killed even before they get to a point where they can do some damage.  The movie does an excellent job of showing what happened in these styles of battles. In this three day battle the lowest estimate of killed, wounded, or missing on both sides is 46,000 men.  By comparison on D-Day in World War II, the U.S. lost 29,000 men, and during the Iraq War the U.S. lost 4,600 men.  I mention this not to trivialize the loss of men during WWII or the Iraq War, but to point out how bloody and costly the Civil War was and how this movie does a great job in showing the style of fighting back then.

As I said this movie isn’t for everyone.  The downtime between battles that involve the men talking I am sure are slow and at some times tedious.  In fact the entire movie may seem like that for some people because the film is over 3 and half hours long, and that’s just the theatrical version.  The extended version that is on BluRay is over 4 hours long.  I love every minute of it. But I imagine that unless you are a hardcore military history man like me this is a film that will be skipped by most people which is a shame.  The results of this battle lead to one of the greatest speeches in American History, the Gettysburg Address by President Lincoln.  Unfortunately people don’t care about that kind of history anymore and many teachers and college professors are trying to eliminate it all together. Anyway, take a July afternoon off one day, especially if it’s rainy, and watch this movie.  You might like it.

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schindlers listIn my opinion, this is the best movie ever made. Steven Spielberg makes a masterpiece in every definition of the word. This movie is as close to the real thing as we who did not suffer or discover this tragedy of biblical proportions will ever get, thankfully.

This movie details the triumph and the tragedy of the Jews who were saved by the Nazi party member Oskar Schindler whose original goal in moving to Warsaw was to make as much money as possible and then leave.  What Schindler ended up doing was showing the true nature of humanity when surrounded by madness.

This movie is put together in such a way that few movies have done before or since.  Spielberg puts the audience member there, in the work camp, in the death camp, on the firing line.  He does this with such skill that I was actually shaking at one point in the movie.  Spielberg shows us the true horror of this even in way that only a documentary or an interview with a survivor or a liberator could only know.  This is a very difficult feat to accomplish by people who make documentaries let alone a fictional movie based on factual events.  With this movie Steven Spielberg became the greatest director of my generation and I will argue of all time.

 

Three actors also should receive special recognition for this movie.  Ben Kingsley (The Last Legion,) portrayed Itzhak Stern, the man who ran Schindler’s plant, and also the man who helped keep so many of his people alive.  Kingsley portrayed this character as a stoic man who lived with death everyday and managed to keep fighting.  He never strayed in his portrayal of man who could have been killed for the actions that he was doing.  Kingsley just did an outstanding job.

Liam Neeson (Batman Begins,) who portrayed Oskar Schindler, did a great job showing the development of a character who in the beginning was only interested in money and womanizing to the end who realized that his gold Nazi pin could have gotten him one more life.  Neeson scenes that best show this transformation is first when he has to go to the train station to pull Stern off of a train that is headed to death camp.  When Schindler does get Stern off of the train he lectures Stern on what would have happened to the plant and to him if Stern had been sent off to the camp because of a simple mistake.  We go from this scene to the end where Schindler is looking at all of his possessions and realizing that his money and his possessions meant peoples lives, he who had done so much could have done more and couldn’t face himself because of what he didn’t do.  Masterful.

The best job has to go to Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter: The Deathly Hallows,) portraying Amon Goeth the work camp commander.  I feel it would be incredibly difficult to take on a role that would require him to be a believable evil man.  His constant struggle with trying to do what is right, while doing all of these horrible acts and realizing that he is going to lose this struggle for his sole is very compelling.  The two scenes that best show Fiennes portray of Goeth can be seen when he approaches his female servant Helen Hirsch, where he struggles to show the good side of him to her and the scene where he at first forgives a young boy for not cleaning his bath tub.  Goeth looks into the mirror, looking into his sole almost to see if there is something there.  His decision will determine whether or not this 14 year old boy will live or die.  Fabulous cting by Fiennes.

I would like to recommend this movie to everyone.  But I feel that there are some people out there who could not handle the reality of this movie.  Certainly anybody under the age of 16 could not understand the depth of emotions that this movie carries.  However, if you feel you are up to it, and you can explain it to a teenager, then please rent this movie.  I was really hesitant about doing this review because I feel that my words can in no way give the honor that this movie deserves.

***Update: This is a review I wrote in 2005 transferring from the old website to the blog.  That being sad I can’t stress how wonderful this film is and it should be seen, at least once.***

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